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Class of the Nation Is in Southland

Basketball: Attention should focus on standout area players as NCAA's early signing period starts today for prep seniors.


It has been the most anticipated high school senior class in Southern California basketball history for college recruiters.

Center Chris Burgess of Irvine Woodbridge, forward/guard Schea Cotton of Bellflower St. John Bosco and guard Baron Davis of Santa Monica Crossroads generally are considered among the top 10 recruits in the nation. Burgess, 6 feet 10, is at the top of many lists.

Guard Kenny Brunner of Compton Dominguez heads another group of half a dozen players who have their choice of colleges. And there are at least another 20 local players who are being recruited by major programs.

With the NCAA's early-signing period beginning today and continuing through Nov. 20, the day of decision is here for many.

"This class has great depth at virtually every position," said Bob Gibbons, who publishes a national scouting report from North Carolina. "The most difficult positions for college coaches to fill are center and point guard, and Southern California has all the key players at those positions."

When many of the nation's top players gathered at the invitation-only Nike All-American basketball camp in Indianapolis last summer to showcase their skills before college coaches, 18 of the 150 players in attendance were from Southern California.

"The numbers are justified because of the large talent base there," George Raveling, the camp's director, said during the event.

The large talent base has made competition fierce among the best players.

"For years, everyone has known this was a top class," said Brunner, who plans to sign with Fresno State this week after considering offers from Georgetown, Kentucky and Syracuse, among others. "Everybody has tried to show they're No. 1 and prove they're the best. I have felt this competition for a long time."

Burgess, who transferred from perennial contender Santa Ana Mater Dei to Woodbridge during the spring of his freshman year, watched his stock rise over the summer after playing well at the Nike camp and in several tournaments. He's expected to sign Monday with either Brigham Young, Duke or Kentucky, although he has hinted that he might make himself available for the NBA draft in June.

Cotton, who's expected to join his brother James and sign with Long Beach State this week, has also hinted he might turn professional after high school. The 6-5 senior is expected to sit out this season to nurse a shoulder injury and to concentrate on his studies. He hasn't yet met NCAA academic entrance requirements.

Despite the talent base, the local colleges haven't fared well. USC is expected to sign guard Kevin Augustine of Mater Dei, but UCLA and Pepperdine aren't expected to sign any of the top players in the next week.

Davis gave a commitment to the Bruins in September but probably won't sign until the spring in the wake of the firing of coach Jim Harrick. The firing could also affect the decision of twin towers Jason and Jarron Collins of Harvard-Westlake, who are considering UCLA. Interim Coach Steve Lavin declined comment about the team's recruiting prospects.


Cream of the Southland Crop

The NCAA's early-signing period for basketball begins today and continues through Nov. 20. An update on the top seniors from the Southland, in alphabetical order.


Santa Ana Mater Dei: 5-foot-11, guard

* 1995-96 averages: 19 pts., 7 ass.

* College: Is expected to sign this week with USC.


Compton Dominguez: 5-9, guard

* 1995-96 averages: 14 pts,, 8 ass.

* College: Plans to sign this week with Fresno State. Recruited by Georgetown, Syracuse and Kentucky but decided to stay closer to home.


Irvine Woodbridge: 6-10, center

* 1995-96 averages: 26 pts., 11 reb.

* College: Canceled a visit to UCLA last week. Considering BYU, Duke and Kentucky and is expected to announce his decision Monday.


Villa Park: 7-foot, center

* 1995-96 averages: 17 pts., 11 reb., 7 blk.

* College: Expected to sign this week with Kansas.


Bellflower St. John Bosco: 6-5, fwd.-grd.

* 1995-96 averages: 25 pts., 10 reb.

* College: The area's best-known player is expected to sign this week with Long Beach State, where his brother, James, also plays. Also considered Pepperdine and canceled home visits with Syracuse, Connecticut and Kansas. Hasn't yet met NCAA academic entrance requirements.


North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake

6-10 and 6-11, forward-centers

* 1995-96 averages: Jarron, 14 pts., 9 reb.; Jason, 18 pts., 12 reb.

* College: The identical twins are expected to sign early with the same school. They are considering Arizona, Stanford and UCLA.


Santa Monica Crossroads: 6-2, guard

* 1995-96 averages: 19 pts., 9 ass.

* College: Announced in September that he would sign early with UCLA but is wavering since the dismissal of Coach Jim Harrick. Is also being recruited by Kansas and Duke, among others, and is expected to sign in the spring.

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